Routes to Sustainability

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Sustainability initiatives are now gaining pace as more companies make statements, describe their values and indicate their approach to sustainable development. BUT good intentions need to be followed by action ..... and results that are more sustainable

There are several reasons why the interest in sustainability is growing rapidly, in particular to:

Routes to sustainability are now provided by various organisations, each with its own characteristics. Supplementary pages provide examples of what companies are doing, statements they are making, projects and guidelines for becoming more sustainable:

Routes to sustainability are offered by the following professional organisations:

  1. wpe2.gif (941 bytes) Business in the Community believes there is an increasing urgency for businesses to make a difference and to be seen to be making a difference to the communities where they work. Business in the Environment (BiE) aims to inspire business to achieve corporate social responsibility by making continuous progress towards environmentally sustainable development, an essential part of business excellence. BiE devise and promote practical steps that support companies progress towards understanding and applying the principles of sustainable development. BiE's mission is to encourage business leaders to assess and improve the environmental performance of their companies. Both organisations were founded by HRH Prince Charles.
  2. The Centre for Tomorrow's Company emphasises the "inclusive approach" which means taking account of all the key relationships a company has with its stakeholders. Mark Goyder's book Living Tomorrow's Company is intensely practical and is about "inspiring people to produce extraordinary results by concentrating on the human beings whose needs lie behind every business relationship".
  3. The Environment Council has established the Sustainable Business Forum and published a booklet Beyond the Twilight Zone: defining and managing key survival issues for corporate environmental sustainability, by Steve Robinson. This includes a case study of how the principles it advocates were applied by Eastern Group plc. Robinson states that "companies cannot deliver sustainable development, because that involves the whole community, but they can strive for corporate environmental sustainability". The model used starts from strategic influences on corporate environmental sustainability, followed by an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis). Stakeholders are then involved in the impacts and issues before developing a model for an environmentally sustainable business. The case study with Eastern Group is available free from The Environment Council, 212 High Holborn, London WC1V 7VW (Tel: 0171 836 2626). Other companies are also working with The Environment Council using this approach and more case studies are expected.
  4. Forum for the Future (FfF) Business Programme is a partnership scheme which enables companies to develop a tailor-made approach to suit their circumstances, review their business strategy and, if necessary, to re-think the nature of their business. More information is available from Business Programmes, Forum for the Future, 9 Imperial Square, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 1QB (Tel: 01242 262757). See also Green Futures which reports on all FfF activities and see their web site at:
  5. wpe2.gif (941 bytes) Global Action Plan started with Action at Home, a six-month programme to help individuals change their life styles in terms of waste, energy, water, transport and shopping. Several organisations provide their employees with these action packs at reduced rates. More recently Action at Work has been developed to focus on how organisations can make changes such as waste reduction, energy efficiency, transport policies, water consumption and purchasing. A third programme, Action at School, involves children and is both educational for them while helping the school to become more sustainable. A fourth programme, Small Changes, is for use in poor communities and is designed with their special needs to improve quality life and save money, in mind.
  6. Natural Capital Institute is Paul Hawken's newly-formed venture in the USA, to follow-up the work described in Natural Capitalism, but without a web site at present. His earlier book The Ecology of Commerce is a best seller and he founded the Natural Step initiative in the USA. He can be contacted by email at
  7. The Natural Step has a unique, approach based on four non-negotiable systems conditions which deal with the use of resources, protecting bio-diversity and working towards a fairer society. Several businesses are working with The Natural Step in a growing number of countries.In the UK The Natural Step is managed by Forum for the Future - Tel: 01242 262744. For information about their work in other countries see their web site at
  8. wpe2.gif (941 bytes) Oikos is a London based not-for-profit organisation set up to challenge senior decision-makers - particularly those in industry - to confront 'the challenge of sustainable development' more openly, radically and creatively. As the Greek word at the root of 'eco' in economics and ecology, Oikos focuses on re-establishing the connection between economic 'value' and the broader forms of social, cultural and ecological wealth requiring higher valuation, if humankind is not only to survive through the next millennium, but develop to its potential. Oikos collaborates with creative allies within and beyond the corporate world, to produce 'imaginative interventions'. Ultimately the aim is to instigate new forms of work and organisations - as social culture. They have developed an unusual Oikos event Tall, Dark and Handsome and No. 1, presented by Nick Mayhew. This unique experience has attracted much attention and feedback that includes "contentious, intellectually robust and spiced with wit ... challenging each of us to confront our responsibility for the business environment we create and sustain". and “In a big business environment, where it is all too easy to lose sight of the fundamental human needs we are meant to be serving, Nick Mayhew.’s ‘art’ is both necessary and refreshing. He opens up a unique opportunity for genuine reflection on the ethical choices facing executive decision-makers – both day-to-day and well into the future." Contact Oikos by email at and see their web site at
  9. Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) is the organisation founded by Amory and Hunter Lovins in Colorado, USA. They are co-authors of Factor Four with Ernst von Weizsacker, and co-authors of Natural Capitalism with Paul Hawken. RMI provide services that relate directly to the principles described in both books, centring around fantastic improvements in resource efficiency. On this subject they can be contacted by email at
  10. SustainAbility is John Elkington's organisation. He coined the term "Triple Bottom Line", meaning that companies are being called upon to "enhance economic prosperity, ensure environmental protection and promote social justice". See, for example his publication, The CEO Agenda.
  11. The World Business Council of Sustainable Development (WBCSD) advocates balancing the 3Es. They say that "sustainability is about balancing three elements of a triangle - environment, economy and everyone". They go on to describe two ways of doing this. A compromise position in the middle of the three elements, which they dismiss as "inherently unstable", and prefer three points of balance, one at each corner. Many large companies now accept this idea in their Corporate Environmental Reports and some in their Annual Reports - see the March/April 1999 issue of Tomorrow, but each issue contains a supplement on the work of the WBCSD.
  12. The Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy is in North-Rhine/Westphalian Science Centre, Germany and Ernst von Weizsacker is the President. He is co-author of Factor Four with Amory and Hunter Lovins and recently became a member of the Bundestag (federal assembly) of Germany. The Wuppertal Institute provides services which include the principles of resource efficiency described in Factor Four.

***Select the route to sustainability that appeals to you and contact the relevant organisation!***

Last updated 24 November 1999

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